Edinburgh Castle is the icon of the city. The thick walled fortress, perched high on a rocky hill, houses the history of a proud nation, the crown jewels of Scotland, and the blood of brave fighters that defended their country. Just outside the gate stood a solitary piper, proudly dressed in kilt. Surrounded by a crowd of tourists jostling to take a selfie with the piper, most ignoring the courtesy of dropping a coin or two into the bowl on the ground, few, most likely, even aware of the rich history of the Scots. The selfies taken that day, all along the crowded Royal Mile, will appear on Instagram, for it is truly an “Instagramable” place.
The Independent, a British newspaper, found that 40.1% of millennials chose their travel destinations based on how well the photos would look on Instagram (Independent March 2017). A google search of “Instagramable” returns 3,630,000 links.
These days any travel destination is overrun with folks taking selfies, selfie-sticks are standard travel gear for many, for posts that will end up on Instagram, feeding hopes of “likes” and “followers.”
I get it, for I too post on Instagram, and I too crave the likes and followers. (Feel free to take break from reading this and follow my feed.) So I am not anti-Instagram, and in the end not anti-selfie. Photos of travelers in foreign lands have been with us since the invention of the camera, they become treasured memories.
Travel should be more than selfies, likes, and followers. The joy of travel is to get away from the “must see” places crowded with groups on tours, rushed from site to site, with only time enough to snap an Instagramable Selfie. These folks may correctly claim to have “seen” a place, but they missed out on experiencing the people, the culture, the beauty of the place.
The late Anthony Bourdain said that if your trip to Paris is filled only stops at the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower then you have not seen Paris – I totally agree. We were on our 5th trip to Paris before we ever went up the Eiffel Tower, thanks to the crowds it was a complete disappointment. When I think of Paris it is the quiet places and cafes, like La Table du Luxembourg in the Luxembourg Gardens. I sat there one sunny day sketching the park, while sipping un verre de vin blanc.
This is why I sketch, it takes longer than a selfie. To sketch you have to really see, study, think about where you are. In the process you take in the place, see the people, hear the sounds, smell the flowers.
If you are not a sketcher, give it a try. If you are a photographer, please keep taking the kind of photos my wife takes and posts at Travels Through My Lens. But take more of the places and less selfies. And above all slow down, it is not a race. Sit in the cafe, have the glass of wine, then when you get a real feel for the place capture it with your camera. I guarantee the pictures will be far more Instagramable. Both photographers and sketchers are artists, our goal is to capture the moment, to be true to what we experience in a place. That genuineness will come through when you post it for us all to enjoy. I want to see the place, an occasional view of your charming person in the frame is fine, but show me the place, and what makes it special.
Keep travel sketching, and photographing travel, then share it for us all to see.